Our View: The path for wind stays open

SouthCoast Today

March 06. 2016 2:01AM

The likelihood of offshore wind becoming a significant contributor to our electricity supply has been through its ups and downs.

From early enthusiasm and optimism around the Cape Wind project, through the long battles over siting that eroded that enthusiasm, then the purchase agreements that would have provided financial stability, and finally to the withdrawal of the agreements that leaves the hopes for the first proposed offshore wind project for Massachusetts watching the game from the sidelines.

Despite that project stalling, the natural supply of offshore wind off our coast has attracted players with more clout and more experience. Leaseholders are spending more time in Massachusetts, and thanks to the state’s investment in a heavy lift port and blade testing facilities, they’re spending more time in New Bedford and Quincy, too.

Last week’s expression of support for Massachusetts offshore wind by House Speaker Robert DeLeo shows the industry’s promise is alive and well.

The House speaker told the Boston Chamber of Commerce he would ensure the House version of the energy bill coming into shape in the capital will include language supporting a path to a full-fledged offshore wind industry.

The growing support of the industry among Massachusetts politicians strengthens the overall push for renewable energy sources and attainment of goals regarding the reduction of carbon-based fuel emissions.

Obstacles remain, and one of the most salient is the eventual mix of energy sources settled upon in the final bill, which could be an amalgam of multiple versions in the Legislature and one filed by the governor.

Notwithstanding the growing awareness of offshore wind’s potential as a local economic engine as well as being a renewable energy source, the final bill’s expression of priorities will have a large impact on how quickly and to what degree wind can emerge here.

Since the previous administration, the import of hydroelectric power from Quebec has been identified as a priority.

Solar generation has skyrocketed, beyond what was predicted, but regulatory barriers have raised questions and suggested a remedy might be needed to expand solar and bring more jobs.

Likewise, efforts to get more natural gas supply in the Northeast to address winter electricity spikes have complicated the process. Gas already accounts for the biggest part of the electricity we use, and there are environmental, legal and financial reasons to reduce that reliance.

We know that Massachusetts has some of the highest electricity rates in the country, but we also know that residential bills are among the lowest in the country, thanks to innovations and efficiencies borne out of necessity.

There are electricity-intensive businesses for whom electricity rates are critical to their decision-making and profitability, and lawmakers are constrained in how much weight to give present rates over future benefits.

Electricity prices are a blend of costs from each of the energy sources that go into the delivered product. Increasing gas supply and importing foreign hydro power will have downward pressure on electricity prices in the short term. If it limits the scope of a whole new domestic industry, however, we would urge lawmakers to make a full accounting of the future benefits.

Crowd books it to New Bedford’s newest festival for readers, authors

By Sandy Quadros Bowles

March 05. 2016 4:44PM

NEW BEDFORD — Book lovers helped write the latest chapter in New Bedford’s popular schedule of festivals.

The first New Bedford Book Festival proved such a draw that a second festival is scheduled, likely this fall, said Steve Froias, who developed the concept for the festival and organized the event along with Groundwork co-founders Sarah Athanas and Dena Haden.

The two-day festival attracted 200 visitors by 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Froias said. The festival continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Groundwork on Purchase Street.

“People have been telling me it’s long overdue to have something like this here,’’ he said. “Fifteen minutes after the door opened, people were streaming in.’’

The event was a hit even before those doors opened: Twenty-five authors could not be accommodated and were placed on a waiting list, Froias said.

The authors were “happy to connect with other authors,’’ he said. “And people were buying books, which they appreciate,’’ he said with a laugh.

Writers whose works were presented reflected a range of genres, including mysteries, history, memoirs, cookbooks and children’s literature.

One children’s book, “A Lobster’s Tale’’ shares the story of a lobster that manages to sweet-talk a young boy into keeping him out of the lobster pot and into his life.

The book, written by Michael P. Cifello, features local summer events, including the fireworks in Onset.

Another author at the festival shared the story of her mother’s happy childhood in New Bedford. Lisa Paquin Dunaway presented “Little Girl of Yesterday,” a compilation of stories written by her mother, Olive Weaver Paquin Brown, over the course of many years and left after her death as a gift for her children and grandchildren.

“I think she’d be very happy, especially since we are sharing so many happy stories’’ of her mother’s upbringing in the city’s North End, Dunaway said.

Joyce Keller Walsh of Lakeville was offering mysteries, as well as a Huck Finn-inspired story of a homeless family’s adventures in the vehicle they live in and a nonfiction book about a Fall River murder.

She described the fair as “marvelous. It’s great for the writers, it’s great for the readers,” she said.

“We’ve had terrific traffic,” she said. “I’m so optimistic about this going forward.’’

Follow Sandy Quadros Bowles on Twitter @SandyBowlesSCT.


From NYC to New Orleans, New Bedford’s unique brand finds a niche

By Brian J. Lowney
Contributing Writer
and Mike Lawrence

August 22. 2015 8:31PM


NEW BEDFORD — Madison Avenue in New York City isn’t the place you’d expect to see a big, bold-lettered mention of New Bedford.

But there it is, loud and proud on the Joseph Abboud Store on the corner of Madison Avenue and 49th Street, white capital letters on plate glass proudly proclaiming that the expertly tailored clothes are “crafted in New Bedford.”

Frederick “Rick” Kidder, the new CEO of the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, described the Abboud storefront as “an incredibly positive sign.

“It speaks volumes of the quality of this community and the commitment to quality that Joseph Abboud has always demonstrated,” he said. “It also reminds us of the great value of our manufacturing base and the power of ‘Made in America and Made in New Bedford.’”

The positive New Bedford branding is part of a concerted effort of the city to remake its image in the national consciousness and beyond.

“There’s an old saying: ‘If you don’t control your message, someone else will,’” said Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. “You have to go out there and be a good salesperson … specifically in targeted markets, to bring folks back to New Bedford.”

Ed Anthes-Washburn, acting port director for the Harbor Development Commission, said efforts to build a New Bedford Seafood brand have been accelerating for several years. Successful campaigns such as Maryland crab, Alaskan salmon and Gulf shrimp in Louisiana, he said, all can be models — especially in the No. 1 commercial fishing port in the country, by tonnage.

That message has reached at least one prominent restaurant — GW Fins, an award-winning seafood restaurant in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, where “New Bedford scallops” are a popular menu item.

Mike Nelson, the executive chef at GW Fins, said many customers mention ties to the Whaling City as they peruse the menu or enjoy the seafood.

The restaurant enjoys a “great relationship” with a local seafood broker, J and J Trading, he said. The company expedites the fresh frozen scallops from a local processing plant to Logan Airport, where they are loaded onto a jet and flown to New Orleans.

Once the scallops arrive, a courier whisks the shipment to the restaurant.

“Our customers appreciate the freshness of the seafood,” Nelson said, adding that in addition to featuring grilled scallops on the menu, he also created a popular entrée that he named “Scalibut.”

“Not a lot of people, even locally, realize how big a part of the fresh-caught seafood industry, and the processing industry, New Bedford is,” Anthes-Washburn said. “It’s more than just scallops — there’s swordfish, there’s herring, there’s everything, really, coming in here.”

The harbor commission has been working with teachers and students at the Charlton School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Anthes-Washburn said, to pursue federal grant funding to boost the New Bedford Seafood effort. He said they were unsuccessful with last year’s efforts to land funding — through the Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program — but plan to apply again this year.

The grants are specifically tied to marketing American-caught seafood. Anthes-Washburn said the commission’s branding effort, federal funding or not, could have broad impacts.

“It benefits more than the seafood fishermen and distributors here,” he said. “It benefits the entire brand of New Bedford, which is what’s really exciting about it.”

In New York City, the display at the Abboud store is part of a series that highlights the production of the distinctive menswear, beginning in Biella, Italy, where the fabric is produced; to the city itself, where the clothing is designed; to New Bedford, where the items are manufactured at a plant located on Belleville Avenue.

According to Phil Kornblatt, store manager, several people have stopped at the store to talk about New Bedford since the eye-catching display was installed two weeks ago. It will continue until the end of the month.

Kornblatt says some store visitors have told him that they live in New Bedford, while others mentioned that they were born in the city or had visited the Whaling Museum.

“They are excited to see that our clothing is manufactured in New Bedford,” he said. “Our clothing is not only made well in America; it’s also made well in New Bedford.”

Anthony R. Sapienza, president of JA Apparel Corp. and Joseph Abboud Mfg. Corp, noted that the Joseph Abboud brand of tailored clothing has always been manufactured in New Bedford since the label was launched in 1987.

Sapienza said that given the commitment to quality exhibited by the company’s local workforce, it made sense to highlight the workers and the city in a prominent display in the front window of the Madison Avenue store.

“We are so proud of our history in New Bedford and of the commitment that our New Bedford workforce exemplifies,” he said. “As politicians talk about the possibility of manufacturing jobs returning to the US, we can proudly say that we never left the USA and have been making fine tailored clothing right here in New Bedford for 28 years.”

Right next to the Abboud factory is the menswear firm Mother Freedom, which is also displaying pride in its New Bedford roots.

According to Chris Vroman, president of Mother Freedom, they recently launched a new American brand named Exley NB, which will now serve as the company’s primary brand. Vroman said the name “Exley” is derived from an Old English word meaning “the settlement by the river,” which according to the company president, is appropriate given the company’s location on the banks of the Acushnet River.

“The ‘NB’ refers to our New Bedford roots,” he said.

The company was founded in the Whaling City three years ago because of the city’s and region’s “rich history in textile and apparel manufacturing,” and the availability of skilled workers and supporting infrastructure, he said.

“New Bedford, and more broadly, New England are core to Exley’s brand messaging,” he said. “The brand will focus on building a product that is inspired by a New England lifestyle and is authentic in that message as it is also made in New England.” The clothing line will be available early next year at retailers and online at www.exley-nb.com.

Arthur Motta, director of marketing and communications at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, said New Bedford is halfway through the decade covered in the city’s 2010 master plan, in which branding was mentioned at least six times. The goal was to brand New Bedford as “the creative center of the SouthCoast.”

“I can’t say offhand where we are in that process but I do know that the New Bedford Whaling Museum has been front-and-center in the city’s cultural life for more than a century, broadcasting the New Bedford name globally through its scholarly publications and programming while attracting evermore visitors regionally and from around the world,” he said.

He said many local organizations and individuals are working to elevate New Bedford, groups such as AHA! The city has done an “extraordinary job” of residual branding, positioning the city as an arts destination, he said.

“I think it all does come back to the sea, when artists and craftspeople were drawn here during the whaling and textile eras,” he said.

He recently received a text message from his sister who was visiting an upscale restaurant located on Seattle’s waterfront, Motta said. The message included a photo of a featured entrée on the menu: Grilled New Bedford Scallop Risotto.

“There’s no doubt we have an amazing wealth of strengths to work with,” he said.


New Bedford waterfront group floats ideas for future

By Mike Lawrence

August 25. 2015 2:00AM

NEW BEDFORD — How about moving the daily fish auction to State Pier? Maybe add a multi-use building there, to boost public access and activities? And on the NStar site previously planned for a casino, what about a courthouse, or a sports facility, or a marine research hub, or even a cruise ship terminal?

A waterfront steering committee and other stakeholders floated those ideas and more Monday at the Fairfield Inn & Suites’ Waypoint Event Center, as part of an ongoing master planning process that began last fall. Representatives of the Boston-based planning firm Sasaki Associates said a draft framework for the waterfront’s future could be in the city approval process by the end of this year, with significant public input along the way.

“I think our next step is a public meeting, so you’ll be hearing about that,” Sasaki principal Brie Hensold told the group.

The process involves far more than speculative land uses, which are much broader after the July withdrawal of KG Urban’s $650 million casino proposal. Participants Monday discussed how to integrate fishing industry uses with potential development of offshore wind and cargo industries, planning for a South Coast Rail connection, increased public access and more.

Several of those elements will come together, planners said, on the “central waterfront,” meaning from Pier 3 to the NStar and Sprague Energy site off MacArthur Drive.

Mayor Jon Mitchell said a key question will be how to maximize the use of space directly along the water, given the limited size of New Bedford’s harbor.

“Do you have to have water-dependent uses on this waterfront?” Mitchell asked rhetorically. “I think the answer is yes.”

Mitchell later added: “We can’t waste bulkhead space for things that could take place somewhere else.”

That question could affect ideas such as a waterfront courthouse, which local attorney Bob Schilling said could revitalize New Bedford’s waterfront in the same way that the U.S. District Court in South Boston has spurred development in the Hub’s Seaport District.

“There’s so much activity” in the Seaport area, Schilling said. “That was the seed for that, the federal courthouse there.”

Roy Enoksen, president of Eastern Fisheries, Inc., advocated for expansion of the working waterfront.

“I think a new courthouse would be great, but I think downtown New Bedford needs all the help it can get,” he said. “Stick with the industry.”

Winn Willard, president of the Hunt Design boat-building firm, gave a different view of how Boston Harbor has developed.

“I watched the gentrification of the Boston waterfront,” Willard said. “(Boston) had a working waterfront — slowly but surely, it all went away.”

Ed Anthes-Washburn, acting port director for the Harbor Development Commission, spoke positively about moving the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction to State Pier from just north of the Marine Commerce Terminal, where there’s presently limited public access. That idea was raised by Sasaki.

“If you can get more people in front of the fishing industry and talking about it…that benefits New Bedford as a whole,” Anthes-Washburn said.

Mitchell said waterfront plans that take shape in months ahead will have lasting impacts on New Bedford’s future.

“It’s going to shape this city for the next 100 years,” he said.



U.S. Sen. Warren encourages business innovators during New Bedford visit

By Mike Lawrence

August 19. 2015 8:01PM

NEW BEDFORD — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a small gathering of local business leaders Wednesday that “New Bedford is clearly building a future around entrepreneurship,” encouraging innovation and sharing ideas in a space designed for that exact purpose.

More than 20 people sweated in summer heat while fans whirred in the under-construction Groundwork space at the Quest Center, where Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, spoke briefly and took a quick tour on a swing through SouthCoast.

She got a firsthand look at New Bedford’s entrepreneurial potential, as several speakers spoke about needs, challenges and successes in the local startup and small business communities.

INEX Advisors founder Christopher Rezendes, for example, said New Bedford is an ideal location for his technology consultancy and an affiliated Internet of Things “impact lab” downtown, in Bristol Community College space in the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Visual and Performing Arts. The location is known informally as the Star Store.

Rezendes said the impact lab will work with tech startups to develop and pilot their products, and is expecting to have a formal launch next month. He put a water well sensor in Warren’s hands to demonstrate one such product, made by Milwaukee-based Wellntel.

The well sensors can provide information about groundwater levels and sources before farmers, homeowners or other well users pump water. The sensors are an example of the Internet of Things, or the merging of physical objects with network technology.

Rezendes told Warren that there’s a need for “someone like you to champion the idea that future leaders will come from everywhere.”

Ramon Silva, director of financial incentives and senior lending officer for the New Bedford Economic Development Council (EDC), said the EDC is working to foster future business leaders.

Silva said as of July, the EDC had a portfolio of 77 loans totaling nearly $3.9 million, with minority- and women-owned businesses representing about 40 percent of borrowers.

Danielle Cyr DeFrias, director of business development for Boston-based digital agency Pidalia, said most of the agency’s key staff lives in New Bedford, and she’s hoping to strengthen the ability of local workers to stay in SouthCoast.

“One of the challenges we face as a very small business is attracting and retaining talented staff in the New Bedford area,” she said. “Everyone wants to go to Boston.”

To that end, she said, she and others will be hosting a “Night Shift” lecture series at Groundwork this fall, to develop ideas for building local business.

Groundwork is a shared office facility that provides space and resources for startups, freelancers and others.

“This is a city that has the right pieces in place — it has the right bones,” Warren said. “It’s exciting to see the collaboration here, the partnership.”


Our View: Small business finds friends in New Bedford

SouthCoast Today
August 20. 2015 2:01am

Some may be coming grudgingly to the realization that no casino will influence New Bedford’s economic development, but the city’s embrace of the entrepreneurial model of incremental, organic growth can be a most effective balm for the sting of that loss.

Small business runs the economic development race slow and steady, fueled by creativity and ambition.

In New Bedford, opportunities for small business continue to emerge in services, technology, manufacturing and creative arts, supported by a simultaneously expanding network of human, social and financial resources.

At the city-owned Quest Center on Wednesday, a roundtable discussion highlighted a number of those resources, not least of which was Groundwork, the shared-space business in whose offices the discussion was held.

The entrepreneurs who started Groundwork hope to host other entrepreneurs, offering shared services, spaces and utilities so new businesses can get more out of their intellectual resources.

Representatives of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, another tenant of the Quest Center, spoke of the $7.5 million in loans made since 2010 that leveraged nearly 10 times that in private investment. Remarkably, 40 percent of those loans were made to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Two other speakers alluded to upcoming programs in which entrepreneurs will get opportunities to pitch ideas to experts worried more about providing advice and resources for promising ideas than about television ratings and personal enrichment (“Shark Tank” without the sharks … or snark).

Businesses with 10 or fewer employees make up almost 80 percent of American businesses, according to the Small Business Administration, and so many of them represent folks with an idea, courage and a plan that depends on a good break or two for it to succeed.

Resources like business incubators, microlending, executive counseling and a local talent pool can provide those breaks.

New Bedford has those resources today, and they are strengthening the economic fabric of the region, slow and steady. The more immigrant-, woman-, veteran- and minority-owned small businesses that emerge in this environment, the stronger it will get.

In economics, the margin is where the action is. We see the example of the groundfish fleet, fighting against the move to put expensive at-sea observers on fishing vessels at the industry’s expense, and how for some that can push them out of profitability. We see the work of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at Wednesday’s roundtable, to demonstrate that folks filing for bankruptcy had been responsibly struggling for years before a health crisis, job loss or other catastrophic life event pushed them beyond the brink.

On Wednesday, however, we saw the successful examples of that played out for small businesses. Good policies, leveraged resources and intelligent players give those risk takers on the margin a nudge toward profitability.

This drives organic growth that leads to long-term prosperity for the entrepreneurs, the folks they hire and the communities in which they thrive.

It’s a banner summer for recreational boating in New Bedford Harbor

By Steve Urbon
August 02. 2015 8:00PM

NEW BEDFORD — The demise of the Boston bid for the 2024 Olympics wasn’t good news to many people. But the whole episode may have given a serious boost to recreational marine traffic in New Bedford harbor.

As we know, the Boston Olympics committee had given the green light to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell’s proposal that the sailing events be held in his city, with its easy access to some superb sailing on Buzzards Bay.

Suddenly New Bedford was on the map for a lot of people up and down the coast who may have never given it a second thought. Boaters, especially. The decision created a real splash.

This may explain what is happening, the mayor said. And what is happening is all good.

Last year about five “cruising clubs” made New Bedford a destination, each with anywhere from three boats to a dozen or more.

This year, according to acting Harbor Director Ed Anthes-Washburn, the number is 14 and counting, an increase of 180 percent.

The city-owned Popes Island Marina is at 97 percent capacity, Washburn said, up 80 percent over last year.

Finally, the number of people using the city’s launch water taxi service, which began last year, is up 43 percent.

The harbor is clearly on a roll, and it’s entirely possible that boaters who have good experiences are going to help the harbor build on its successes through word of mouth.

The launch looks to be an amenity that was long overdue.

Brian Joseph, one of four launch pilots, sees first-hand how visitors use it alll the time at the bargain price of $3 per trip.

Typically the launch will dock at Pier 3 on the New Bedford waterfront. But in practice it’s very, very versatile. Joseph said that the launch will take a passenger anywhere they want to go along the harbor inside the hurricane barrier, particularly restaurants that are at or near a place to dock.

Last Friday, during a brief tour with a reporter aboard, a cell phone call turned him around to pick up a woman whose yacht was at Popes Island but her husband was at St. Luke’s Hospital, and she was returning to her boat after a visit.

Many boaters use the launch for its primary purpose, taxiing people from their moorings in the harbor. They will use it even if they have dinghies, Joseph said, because many times they are all dressed up for dinner and “a dinghy is a wet boat.”

There are a couple more factors at work here. The city has been setting up at boat shows in New England, and has been doing some targeted advertising in sailing magazines.

Finally, there’s the new harbormaster, David Condon, who is proving to be the glue that is holding all the harbor activities together. It’s a vast departure from previous years when it wasn’t clear who was in charge.

So never mind the Olympics. This summer has been a clear win for New Bedford, and perhaps the start of a whole new chapter in New Bedford’s role in recreational boating in the Northeast.

Steve Urbon’s column appears in The Standard-Times and SouthCoastToday.com. He can be reached at surbon@s-t.com or 508-979-4448. Follow him on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT


Feast feats: Big crowds made it unforgettable for volunteers

By Kathleen McKiernan
August 02. 2015 9:00PM

NEW BEDFORD — With close to 5,000 malasadas eaten, 20 to 25 barrels of Madeira Wine drank and a sell out of bread, Portuguese Feast organizers say the 101st year of the annual festival may have been the best.

“We ran out of bread. We never run out of bread,” said Mariann Baptista, who volunteered serving food at the pavilion. “I thought this year’s feast was wonderful. It’s all about family and tradition and people coming in from out of town. The camaraderie of everyone — you can’t even touch it.”

The Club Madeirense S.S. Sacramento wrapped up its feast on Sunday with a 10 a.m. service at the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception church to honor the Blessed Sacrament and a parade of more than 40  organizations marching from Brooklawn Park to the feast grounds at Madeira Field. Parade Marshal James Souza was also honored by State Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral and Senator Mark Montigny with a citation from the Legislature.

“It was excellent,” said 2015 Feast President Nelson De Gouveia. “We were lucky enough for the weather. God blessed us with a beautiful parade too. I’m very happy with everything we did.”

“We truly celebrate Portuguese tradition. All this weekend we’ve all been Madeirans,” said Rep. Cabral.

At the popular Madeira Wine booth, 150 gallons of sangria was sold and 20 to 25 barrels of wine. On Saturday, five to seven barrels were consumed, a feat for the feast, volunteers said.

“We couldn’t keep up. I was in awe of the amount of people here without incident,” said Tino De Gouveia. “The volume of what we do in here is crazy. Saturday was the most hectic night.”

Tino, feast President Nelson De Gouveia’s brother, said this year’s feast was “the best one ever.”

“I traveled 3,000 miles to be here from Seattle. Nothing has compared to this one,” Tino said.

The souvenir stand also almost ran out of black “Got Madeira?” T-shirts, Balbina Jardin said.

“It was crazy – a lot of people. I’m happy we had a lot of people. (Saturday) night was excellent,” Jardin said.

At least 5,000 malasadas were sold.

“It’s great. It was a lot of work. This is the first time we’ve done this stand,” Barry Chase said.

Hustling behind the scenes, Adriano Almeida III and Joe Pires worked to make sure the feast went smoothly in terms of technology and social media. It was the first major push on social media for the feast, Almeida said. The volunteers created the feast’s first Instagram account and began using Twitter more this year.

“If it wasn’t for Joe and I working together, none of this would have happened,” Almeida said, speaking in terms of the media. “This was the largest push we’ve had for social media.

“It’s a lot of fun. You meet a lot of new people and they become family,” Almeida said. “I’ll definitely be here every year. This is my family. You do what you can for family.”

Follow Kathleen McKiernan on Twitter @KatMcKiernanSCT


Art Beat: Creative collaboration on New Bedford waterfront succeeds handsomely

By Don Wilkinson
Contributing writer

July 30. 2015 2:00AM

It grew out of a conversation between Jeffrey Stieb, former port director and executive director of the Harbor Development Commission, and Emily Johns, a retired schoolteacher, volunteer landscaper and head of the Friends of the New Bedford Waterfront Gardens. Sculpture throughout the Seaport Cultural District, an art walk … and then they tapped Jessica Bregoli, herself a volunteer gardener and a recent graduate of the sculpture department at UMD.

And then Bregoli had a title: administrative coordinator and curator, and a mission: Make it happen. The Seaport Art Walk Committee was formed and includes the City of New Bedford, Mayor Jon Mitchell, the Harbor Development Commission, Seastreak, the Port of New Bedford, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Working Waterfront Festival, the Department of Marketing and Tourism, New Bedford Beautiful. Funding for the project came from Baycoast Bank, Mitchell, the HDC, Fiber Optics, the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMD, and the New Bedford Police Department Union, among others.

It should be noted that one of the ugly little secrets of the “creative economy” is that there is much creative output and little economic benefit, at least for the artists. Painters, sculptors, and graphic designers are very often asked to donate works of art, time, labor and materials to various organizations, most often without compensation and the overrated promise of “exposure.”

This project is different. The cost of materials was covered by the organizers and the selected participating artists were paid a stipend for their efforts. To use an overwrought cliché, it’s a win-win. The artists are rewarded for their time and talents and the community is enhanced by some striking work.

There is a connective tissue that ties all the sculptures together, albeit not always an obvious one. “New Bedford Works,” heavy on wordplay, refers to the city’s collective labor force, to the idea that New Bedford “works” as a city itself, and self-referentially, to the sculptures themselves.

Eric Lintala’s “Shadow Moments of a Time Gone Past” is a tall, stark white obelisk, topped by the black iron silhouette of a harpoon-wielding, peglegged Captain Ahab, gesturing south to the sea. The Pequod is mounted below, and the viewer is left to decide if the work references the bloody labor of long gone whalers or the literary genius of Melville.

“Oarlock” by Mark Phelan is a massive object, weathered and cracked and distressed. A wooden ring, Frankensteined together with rusting sheet metal, is mounted to a paint-faded post, and it sits in a bed of flowers.

Three crudely-fashioned life-size human figures, made of plaster or something like it, arise from another garden, tugging at a rope tied to a nearby tree as they emerge from the dirt. “Progress” — a collaborative work by Michelle Borges and Jessica DeMedeiros — nods to the difficulty of the reality of upward mobility.

Marcus Cusick’s “Hook and Barrel” is a hole-riddled rusty brown drum, without a top or bottom. It hangs high from a lamppost and rocks in the seaborne wind. What it once contained is not known but certainly a substance that kept men working … grain, oil, rum …

Bregoli’s “Emily’s Flowers” is a giant gathering of tulips, hypernaturally green and yellow, and it is her tribute to Emily Johns, who has worked relentlessly for decades to keep the waterfront gardens flourishing.

“Journey Home” by Joe Reis is playful, simple and straightforward. Dozens of silvery fish, cut from aluminum and mounted between small springs, swim in unison when the breeze whispers. An acknowledgement of the staying power of the fishing industry, it is appropriate that the sculpture is mounted only yards away from an AFL-CIO brass plaque, “Commonwealth of Toil,” that extols the contributions of longshoremen and dockworkers.

The Seaport Art Walk also features work by Jacqui Luca, Donna Dodson, Alanna Schull and John Magnan, and will be on display through October at the Seaport Cultural District. It is a shining example of what can work when public, civic, private and creative forces work together.

Don Wilkinson is a painter and art critic who lives in New Bedford. Contact him at Don.Wilkinson@gmail.com 


New Bedford once again No. 1 dollar value fishing port in America

By Steve Urbon

April 23. 2015 2:20PM

NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford is the top dollar value fishing port in the nation once again in 2013, according to the Icelandic bank that compiles the figures each year.

Islandsbanki (as written in Icelandic) totaled up $389 million in seafood value being brought in by New Bedford boats, most of that scallops. Groundfish counts for very little in this city after quota cutbacks and declines in stocks.

Scallop landings were off in 2013 by 8 percent, the report said, because of a decline in landings. It is the 14th consecutive year that New Bedford topped the list.

It was welcome news at the New England Fishery Management Council, where scallop industry advocates are asking for for the opening of some closed “essential habitat” areas in Georges Bank and the closure of other areas.

Dr. Brian Rothschild, professor emeritus of marine science and now head of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries, said “It’s really exciting to be in this position for several years in a row.”

Seafood consultant James Kendall welcomed the news but expressed dismay that scallops accounted for almost all of the revenue. “We’ve got to get groundfish value and landings back up there,” he said.

John Quinn of Dartmouth, who sits on the council, said that the top value port ranking is all the more reason to manage and harvest scallops as effectively as has been done. “We need to see that it continues.”

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT